All the Traits and Signs of an Empath: Are You One?
What Is an Empath?
An empath is a person who has a paranormal ability to sense and absorb the emotions and energies of the people and surroundings they encounter. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Sharon Saline, "Empaths have strong intuition and use it as their primary lens for processing the world around them. They are highly intuitive people who feel emotional and physical sensations on an extremely deep level, and intellectualizing those feelings is tough for them to do."
Signs of being an empath are: high sensitivity, generous hearts who may give too much to others, quick to respond to someone's needs. Because empaths naturally internalize other people's feelings, thoughts, and pain, empaths have a very difficult time distinguishing between other people's emotions and their own, which leads to extreme anxiety and emotional burden. Empaths can be easily overwhelmed in intimate relationships or in highly emotional situations. They need time alone, especially in nature, to recharge.
What It's Like to Be an Empath
For an empath, a seemingly regular day can be overwhelming because subtle stimulants feel overstimulating or unbearable. Empaths are able to deeply and quickly absorb a lot of energies that most people can't even sense, so a typical day can feel like a bombardment of energies associated with touch, sound, scent, light, activity, and conversation, which often results in mental confusion, emotional upset, and even physical discomfort.
Being an empath is not a curse, although it can feel that way until you learn how to cope with all the stimuli you encounter. If you are an empath, it is just genetically how you were made, so there is no cure for it. It has been said that 1 in 20 people are empaths, which shows it's a lot more common than one would think.
20% of the population is genetically predisposed to being empaths. Being an empath is not a disorder. It is a character trait.— Elaine Aron, Ph.D, psychologist at Stony Brook University, New York
Traits of an Empath
- Highly intuitive: You can sense what others are feeling and thinking and can anticipate their reactions to various situations.
- Compassionate, considerate, and understanding: You commiserate with other people's pain and suffering and you feel strongly for other people's needs.
- Caring and Giving: You like to help others feel better, whether it is volunteering for a cause, fighting for the underprivileged, or healing others.
- Introverted: You tend to shy away from large crowds and enjoy regular solitude because taking on everyone's emotions is taxing.
- Inquisitive: You truly care about everyone and everything, so you are instinctively driven to ask questions or to do research to understand people and things on a deeper level.
- Creative: Because you have a keen ability to walk in other people's shoes, you are quite imaginative, and you are expressive of all the emotions that you are able to internalize. For this reason, you most likely enjoy writing, playing music, theater, or any other creative outlet that allows you to fully express your entire spectrum of feelings and imaginations.
33 Signs That You Are an Empath
- You're perceived as being highly sensitive
- You have a strong sense of knowing (you can read people and situations)
- You find public places overwhelming
- Strangers easily unload their emotions on you
- You absorb the emotions of others even when they're not near
- You are highly curious and are drawn to spirituality and the metaphysical
- You are drawn to ancient cultures
- You are naturally curious about your history and ancestral lineage
- You have a nose for the truth
- You experience sudden physical pain, suffering, or illness
- You cannot tolerate worldly news, radio, T.V., newspapers, violence, or cruelty
- You commonly experience digestive disorders and back pain
- You have an addictive personality
- You are drawn to holistic, natural healing and all things metaphysical
- You are creative and inquisitive
- You need regular solitude
- You get bored and distracted easily
- You love nature and animals
- You love being in water
- You sense the energy of food
- You seek answers and knowledge
- You root for the underdog and the underprivileged
- You cannot tolerate clutter
- You cannot tolerate restrictive clothing or jewelry
- You love freedom, travel, adventure, and the road less traveled
- You are an old soul
- You cannot tolerate narcissism
- You can be perceived as moody, aloof, or disconnected
- You detest doing things you don't enjoy
- You instinctively feel time, days of the week/month, weather, or direction
- You dislike antique, vintage, or secondhand items
- You are great listeners
- You only have a few close friends
1. You're perceived as being highly sensitive
Have you ever felt bad for someone and wanted to help them even when others around you didn't notice anything wrong? If you tend to get upset or sad over small and subtle things, then you may be an empath.
However, hyper-sensitive people (HSPs) may also be the exact same way and share many of the traits on this list. The difference between an HSP and an empath is that the empath can feel energies not only from people but from animals and nature as well. Furthermore, an empath cannot distinguish someone else's emotions from his/her own, whereas an HSP can.
2. You have a strong sense of knowing (you can read people and situations)
Beyond intuition and gut feelings, empaths just know things. The more you become in tune with your ability, the stronger this trait can become. Empaths frequently experience déjà vu and synchronicities. Synchronicity is a concept introduced by Carl Jung which purports that events have "meaningful coincidences," meaning things happen for a reason, and empaths can understand that purpose and work with it. With this gift, you can be a helper or a messenger because you can read and understand people and situations beyond what is obvious in the physical world.
Because of this, empaths are likely to have varying paranormal experiences throughout their lives as well, including near-death experiences (NDEs) and out-of-body experiences (OBEs).
Did You Know?
Scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in fractal geometry, quantum physics, and the chaos theory. It has been determined that at deep levels, everything—atoms, cells, molecules, people, plants, animals—are all participating in a sensitive, connective, and flowing network of information. Physicists have proven, as an example, that if two photons are separated, no matter the distance, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other.
3. You find public places overwhelming
Ever notice that you can hike in the woods for miles and not be exhausted, but a trip to the grocery store can be unbearable?
Any place that contains too much energy can be a miserable place for an empath. Because of your ability to absorb others' energies, places like shopping malls, concert venues, grocery stores, traffic jams, hospitals, retirement homes, thrift stores, garage sales and graveyards can be unbearable.
It could all be symbolic, but I wear certain stones placed in pendants when I go out, and it seems to prevent this. When I forget to wear them, I pay the price of being emotionally drained. The two that work best for me are labradorite and smokey quartz, but many people say that black tourmaline works best to protect against overthinking. Crystals and gemstones definitely help protect and heal, so try to invest in these 10 Healing Crystals for Anxiety.
Clearing and Protective Crystals for Empaths
Aqua Aura Quartz
4. Strangers easily unload their emotions on you
An empath can become a dumping ground for everyone else’s issues and problems, which, if you're not careful, can end up as your own. It is not uncommon for an empath to be told an entire life story by perfect strangers in a matter of minutes. People, animals, and children are drawn to empaths like magnets. It's as if the empath is a sudden sounding and solution board for other people's issues, problems, or opinions. This is difficult for many empaths, myself included, as what many may assume is a simple conversation is actually an exercise in emotion overload. When out and about, I am often randomly bombarded with the chatter of other people. It does not take long for me to get a whole life story in a matter of minutes.
5. You absorb the emotions of others even when they're not near
Empaths have a unique ability to pick up other people's emotional energy and take it on as their own. This can occur whether an empath is near a person, far from a person, or just thinking of a person—distance is not an issue here. For example, it is possible for an empath to pick up on negative thoughts from another person who is miles away. It can feel odd sometimes, as you may suddenly find yourself brought to tears or in a fit of rage, without much explanation.
6. You are highly curious and are drawn to spirituality and the metaphysical
Does philosophy, religion, spirituality, or the paranormal interest you? Empaths are passionate about understanding the universe and all its complexities. They stop at nothing to find the "Truth," and have an intense desire to learn how the world works and understand the purpose for everything. They have a sense that there is more to this universe than the physical, tangible things that can be seen and touched.
7. You are drawn to ancient cultures
You view ancient cultures as possessing universal laws and old traditions that are simple yet enlightening. Because you are a truth seeker, you love unearthing and understanding the origins of these cultures and why people chose to adhere to the laws that governed those societies.
8. You naturally curious about your history and ancestral lineage
You enjoy listening to stories about your parents' or grandparents' past, and you possess a genuine interest in learning everything you can about your ancestors and your family culture. It is not unlike you to keep a family tree.
You hold onto family keepsakes and heirlooms, and you cherish family photo albums. You also have a strong desire to pass the knowledge and treasured family items down to your children and grandchildren.
9. You have a nose for the truth
An empath just "knows" when someone is being dishonest or telling a lie, and insincerity, phoniness, or fake behavior is easily spotted. Many empaths are constantly seeking and looking for truth and just behavior in those they associate with. This becomes more prevalent when an empath discovers his/her gifts and birthright. Anything untruthful feels just plain wrong.
Scientists believe that mirror neurons are the anatomical source of empathy. We are hard-wired to be emotionally reflective of others’ feelings. In fact, neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni argues that the concept of “self “and the concept of “other” are meaningful only as they interrelate.
Empaths are hardwired with more extensive mirror neurons than most of us, therefore, they have a very fine-tuned sense of self and other, making them very accurate assessors of another's feelings.— George Kraus, Ph.D., ABPP Board Certified in Clinical Psychology and in Group Psychotherapy
10. You experience sudden physical pain, suffering, or illness
Many empaths are bombarded with mysterious illnesses or pain that cannot be diagnosed by modern medicine. Being an empath is draining; it's unsurprising that they are often fatigued and suffer from migraines, sore throats, and aches and pains with no discernible cause. But the cause actually is clear—it is from absorbing others' energies. Until an empath learns to diffuse the various energies they have come to contain, these ailments will not resolve.
In addition to energy, empaths can also pick up physical pains and ailments from others (especially those they are very close to). They are more specifically prone to ailments in their throat, root, and solar plexus chakras. This is why grounding, staying true to yourself, and voicing yourself is very important.
11. You cannot tolerate worldly news, radio, T.V., newspapers, violence, or cruelty
The more attuned an empath becomes, the harder it will be for them to listen or hear this type of information because the world is constantly full of bad stories of crime, murder, rape, etc. It can become so intolerable that they have to halt receiving this information altogether.
12. You commonly experience digestive disorders and back pain
The solar plexus chakra is based in the center of the abdomen and is known as the seat of emotions. This is where empaths feel incoming emotions from another, which can weaken the area and lead to stomach ulcers, IBS, constipation, eating disorders, and lower back problems (from being ungrounded). Most empaths who are unaware of their ability commonly complain of these ailments.
13. You have an addictive personality
Alcohol and drug abuse are common for empaths. By polluting the mind, an empath attempts to block out and protect themselves from emotional energies they do not want to feel or absorb.
Note: Although using substances to numb difficult energies may feel good temporarily, it obviously causes a multitude of secondary problems. Additionally, substances attract lower frequency energies, so it is especially important for empaths to turn to higher frequency coping tools, such as sobriety, prayer, and/or God.
14. You are drawn to holistic, natural healing and all things metaphysical
Empaths often become natural healers (once they learn to use their abilities properly). This may explain why so many empaths are attracted to professions that involve healing—therapy, teaching, veterinary work, psychiatry, and medicine are a few commonly chosen fields of work or study. At the same time, there are also empaths who wish to avoid these trades because of the overwhelming energies attached to them.
15. You are creative and inquisitive
Empaths are very creative and adore anything related to music, drawing, painting, photography, acting, writing, singing, and/or dancing. They have a gift for creating that is often paired with a vivid imagination. Their interests are vast, varied, and ever changing! If you are an empath, you will likely flutter from one thing to another, never feeling like you can possibly learn enough. You may notice your side of the bed is stacked with books or that you have a never-ending list of hobbies or things you wish to explore.
16. You need regular solitude
Although it seems like a contradiction (because they often appear extroverted), empaths require large amounts of downtime and solitude so that they can shut out the world, process all the energies they have absorbed, and rejuvenate. This is not to be confused with avoidance, depression, or something being "wrong." Empaths simply need time to reflect and clear their minds—this is especially obvious in empath children.
Empaths like to be alone because being alone is not the same as being lonely for them. It is actually not uncommon for empaths to remain single and/or childless throughout their lifetimes because close relationships can be very challenging unless respected boundaries are established.
17. You get bored and distracted easily
Work, school, and home life have to be kept interesting and stimulating or you will likely tune out and daydream.
18. You love nature and animals
Nature and the outdoors are especially important for empaths to feel grounded and at peace. If you're an empath, you often seek nature to feel cleansed, balanced, and even recharged.
You are also highly sensitive to the mistreatment of animals, and you care for animals as though they are have human feelings. Owning a pet is essential to your happiness.
19. You sense the energy of food
Many empaths don’t like to eat meat, seafood, or poultry (even if they like the taste) because they can feel the energy of the animal—especially if the animal suffered or was inhumanely treated before death. Weight issues can easily become a problem as there are some HSPs who become overweight because they use food to dull their emotional sensitivity.
20. You seek answers and knowledge
Empaths are often problem solvers who seek the truth and study many things. To have unanswered questions can be frustrating, and they will endlessly search to find an explanation. If they have a "knowing" about something, they will look for confirmation. The downside to this quality is information overload, and a brain that won't turn off and be quiet.
21. You root for the underdog and the underprivileged
Empaths are highly compassionate. Anyone who is suffering, in emotional pain, handicapped, injured, or being bullied draws an empath's attention, and the empath either tries to help or feels extremely sad and tries to avoid the situation so that they won't have to deal with the emotional trauma.
22. You cannot tolerate clutter
The immediate environment of an empath is something they can easily control and is a reflection of their mental health. This is not to say they are OCD, but clutter is like mental weight for them. It blocks energy flow, so they are inclined to remove it. Their homes are simple and clean, and unnecessary clutter is promptly removed. You typically will not find an empath who is a hoarder.
23. You cannot tolerate restrictive clothing or jewelry
Some empaths may find that types of clothing textures or jewelry can be too restrictive. These adornments may feel uncomfortable, itchy, heavy, or just "not right." Therefore, a lot of empaths may appear to be "plain Janes." They also likely prefer only very specific pieces of jewelry or clothing fabric, and they will tend to wear these all the time.
24. You love freedom, travel, adventure, and the road less traveled
Empaths are natural-born free spirits. Anything that takes away their freedom is crippling to their happiness. This includes routine, strict rules, and codependent relationships. Many of an empath's life experiences could be considered rather extreme, adventurous, or daring, and this ultimately allows them to be more open and receptive to various people, perspectives, and events.
25. You are an old soul
It is not unusual for empaths to have experienced many things in life, even when still young, making them appear wise beyond their years—it's as if they have an "old soul." Many are born and just skip childhood all-together, seemingly always having been an adult.
26. You cannot tolerate narcissism
Overly egotistical people or those who are self-centered and refuse to consider others' points of view are intolerable to empaths and are usually avoided as much as possible.
27. You can be perceived as moody, aloof, or disconnected
How an empath is feeling will determine what face they show to the world. They are prone to mood swings, and they can appear quiet, unsociable, or miserable when they've taken on too much negativity. If you are an empath and find yourself feeling this way, a good question to ask yourself is, "What am I carrying right now? Is this emotion mine?"
28. You detest doing things you don't enjoy
This is not to be confused with laziness—an empath does not like to do or live in a way that feels like a "lie."
29. You instinctively feel time, days of the week/month, weather, or direction
It is not uncommon for an empath to arrive at their destination without maps or directions—they can get there by "knowing." The same thing goes for time and days of the week or year, and they are also extremely sensitive to climate changes.
30. You dislike antique, vintage, or secondhand items
Some empaths prefer to buy new when financially feasible so as to avoid absorbing the energies from a previous owner. I personally do not have a problem with this trait and almost prefer secondhand, mainly because these shopping locations are not typically overly populated, and I don't have a six-figure income. I also find I become emotionally comforted by certain "used" items but also repulsed by others. It just depends on the item.
31. You are great listeners
Empaths make great listeners. This can become a burden when you socialize too much because you can become over-energized from engaging with so many other people and energies. You often only share your personal information with those who you trust and are extremely close to.
32. You only have a few close friends
Empaths make great friends, but are crushed if a friendship is mistreated. Over time, they learn to become far more selective—while they may have a large circle of friends and can blend in with just about any type of crowd or personality, they generally only have a few “close” friendships. Once those close relationships are established, empaths find a good exchange of love and respect. These relationships often last a lifetime.
33. You love being in water
Whether it be rain, a pool, the ocean, or a just a simple bath, empaths are drawn to water. You find water relaxing and cleansing, and you may even feel comforted by water.
Are You an Empath?
Answer this question after reading the traits
The 5 Common Types of Empaths
- Emotional: You feel others' emotions as though they were your own. This makes you a highly compassionate person because you can feel and understand someone's sadness.
- Physical or Mental: A physical or mental empath can feel the physical symptoms of another individual. These empaths usually become healers or medical professionals who can sense others' ailments and see blockages or pain points while treating someone.
- Animal: You can sense exactly what an animal senses and understand what they're thinking. You may even be able to communicate with them telepathically.
- Plant: You can sense what plants feel and need. You are someone who feels extreme emotional sadness when witnessing a tree getting cut down. You need to be in nature to recharge your batteries and heal your emotional well-being.
- Geomantic: These people have a keen attunement to the earth. Geomantic empaths can feel happiness or sadness associated with a location because they develop deep connections with it. They can be sensitive to the history of a location and feel the emotions that occurred in that place.
The Pros and Cons of Being an Empath
Being an empath is hugely beneficial when it comes to relating to others and the universe as a whole, however, being able to feel everyone's pain and sadness can take an emotional and physical toll on you. For this reason, empaths are often times introverts and seek lengthy periods of solitude in order to shield themselves from the burden of compassion.
Emotional burden that can lead to depression
Compassionate, understanding, and caring
Extremely artistic and creative (poets, artists, writers, and musicians)
Can use highly keen intuition and sensitivity to promote peace and healing
Often have addictive behavior
Being an Empath vs. Having Empathy
Being an empath is having a hypersensitive ability to absorb other people's emotions and not being able to intellectualize those emotions. It is not to be misunderstood as having empathy, which is being able to sympathize with others.
What an Empath Is Not!
Empaths are highly sensitive people who have the capacity to tune into the energies around them. They are not:
- Emotionally immature.
- Bi-polar or manic-depressive.
- Narcissistic, ego-driven, or self-centered.
- Unpredictable and unstable.
- Demanding, attention thirsty, or creators of drama.
Empathy should never be used for personal gain or manipulation.
Signs of an Imbalanced or Sick Empath
- Physical pain, stomach issues, headaches, and over- or under-eating are HUGE warning signs. Don't ignore these—they are signs of imbalance.
- Feeling spaced out, confused, and disconnected (sometimes for extended periods of days or weeks).
- Wild mood swings after being around toxic people.
- Feeling like you’re swirling around and around with nowhere to call home (ungrounded). The mind can go to very dark places, if allowed.
- Preferring solitude to an extreme (wanting to always be alone and avoiding places and people). Downtime and rejuvenation are necessary and healthy for an empath, but going into complete "avoidance" mode is not.
- Feeling alone when you are in a crowded place or feeling invisible to others.
Solutions and Coping Skills for Living With Empath Abilities
To avoid falling prey to mental overload, drug addiction, depression, and a sense of disconnect, follow these simple suggestions to help cope with the effects of being an empath:
- Stay creative: This can be whatever that means for you. Sing, dance, draw, or write. If you are working in a job with mundane tasks, remember to do something creative after work or on weekends. This includes cooking, gardening, or doing crafts.
- Learn to guard your own energy: This is very important. How can you do this? Breathe, and when you focus on your breath, remind yourself of what is yours and what is not. Make a point to meditate on a regular basis, even if you can only commit to a few times a week. The key is staying consistent.
- Use your voice: Many empaths lose track of who they are because of emotions they absorb. It's very easy for an empath to become sick and disconnected from the self, reducing their ability to speak for themselves and maintain their sense of individuality and health.
- Get outside: Go for walks, take hikes, admire, and get involved in nature—lay in the sun or put your bare feet on the ground.
- Use water: If possible, get near an ocean ASAP. Water is a huge emotional cleanser and energy remover for an empath. Drink plenty of water, and when you feel you are covered in emotional slime, take a shower or do a detox bath.
- Keep your chakras open: Again, this means speaking up for yourself, taking time for solitude, and staying balanced with yoga, prayer, and meditation. If you are religious, give your worries over to God.
- Use stones and crystals: These are easily found at apothecary shops or online. Smokey quartz is highly protective and grounding, as well as labarodite and black tourmaline (these are my personal favorites as my grounding has not been mastered). You can really use any object that you determine is a talisman for you. The point is to change the tape in your head that leads to overwhelm, and objects that hold meaning for you can help change attention.
- Avoid negativity and stress (when possible): Avoid stress from people especially! Try not to get into arguments even when you disagree with someone, and don't allow others to unload their emotions on you. Walk away, if possible.
- Limit time with TVs, news, electronics, and places that drain your energy. This also goes for people—keep people who are like "emotional vampires" away. Avoid social media as much as possible. People tend to post about their lives (troubles and problems) on social media, which can lead to emotional overload for you.
- When anxious, close your eyes, envision your chakras, and remind yourself of what is yours and what is not. This helps you stay grounded. Use these chakra healing techniques.
- Learn grounding, centering, and shielding skills. Grounding reinforces your connection to Earth and centering reinforces your connection to yourself. Practice these grounding and centering techniques to find your balance. Then, practice shielding to protect yourself from attack. Focus on your core energy and create a protective aura around yourself.
- Pray. Prayer is extremely healing, uplifting, and motivating. Pray often to Spirit/God. Pray with grace and gratitude.
- Seek outside help from an energy practitioner or spiritual healer. There are also guided meditation sessions you can attend.
- Find support groups, therapy, churches (or whatever form of spiritual practice that works for you): You may also want to consider group fitness classes.
- Try to look for at least one positive thing every day! It's best to think of something positive when you wake and before you fall asleep. In the morning, think of one thing you are thankful for, and before bed, think of one thing you liked about your day.
Embrace Your Ability
People of all walks of life, as well as animals and children, are attracted to the warmth and genuine compassion of empaths. Others may not be aware that someone is an empath, but they will still be drawn to them as a metal object is to a magnet!
I've finally started coming into my own with my empathy and hypersensitivity and recently felt compelled to write this because of how unbearable things had become. For so long, I thought I was a sick codependent, but I am not. The journey has been long, confusing, and tedious, sometimes even sick and heart-wrenching, but I wouldn't change myself for a second. Still, sometimes it is very daunting to deal with. We are all unique souls on individual paths, with individual lessons and purposes. I hope this article helps others who may or may not be aware of their abilities, and that the information included will offer comfort, support, and tools for dealing with being a highly sensitive and empathic person. For so long, I thought of this as a curse, but I am finally starting to see it as a blessing and am looking forward to the path ahead.
More Information on Empaths
- The Differences Between Highly Sensitive People and Empaths | Psychology Today
Learn the difference between empaths and highly sensitive people with Dr. Judith Orloff.
- Empath Sickness | Rob's Magick Blog
Empath sickness is probably the most common problem found among practitioners of magic and naturally gifted psychics. It seems to be a problem among members of every single magical religion and spiritual group. If you haven't yet suffered from it you
- Empaths | Scoop.it
News about Empaths - people acutely sensitive and empathic to others feelings
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Rebecca